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Legislature passes bills that clarify tribal language and settle loan eligibility

The State of Wyoming
The Wyoming Capital Building.

The state legislature has passed two bills that clarify tribal language and loan eligibility within the state.

The first house bill clarifies that tribal entities and individuals are eligible for some state loan and grant funding. Governor Mark Gordon signed the bill earlier this week. State Representative Andi Lebeau said that before this bill, tribes were barred from receiving Wyoming Business Council loans and grants.

"What this bill basically did was say, 'No, they're residents from the state of Wyoming. If they meet the criteria can apply for a loan or a grant.' It just clarified that," she said.

Wyoming's Attorney General Bridget Hill said in an opinion last fall that tribal entities should be barred from applying for funding unless entering into a project agreement with the state to improve success rates of supported projects.

The other bill passed this week at the Wyoming legislature corrects misspellings of Arapaho and Shoshone in government documents, as well as updates references to dissolved governing bodies on the Wind River Reservation.

LeBeau said that the bill will make it easier for state entities to contact the tribes.

"People didn't know what to do, especially the joint tribes, and then the state didn't know how to approach the tribes, because there was no longer this Joint Council," she said.

This bill also clarifies that Indigenous languages like Arapaho and Shoshone are classified as "world languages" and not "foreign languages" in state documents.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.
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